Let’s Talk About The Rise of Skywalker

If you want the short version: I enjoyed it, and I would watch it again. It was not a perfect Star Wars movie, it did not have the most satisfying ending, and it was not the best of the Star Wars movies. But it was an enjoyable ride. There were some fun moments and some touching moments, and lots of cool space stuff.

Now let’s get into the discussion. From this point, I’ll be heavily spoiling the plot and discussing what I thought of the final movie in the Skywalker Saga. If you don’t want to be spoiled, do not continue.

Before I really get into it, I should probably explain something. Namely, that I’m a huge fan of the Star Wars franchise, and thus I’m going to be biased. I’m more invested in the lore and the characters than the average viewer, so I’m going to be more forgiving. I loved all the little nods to the rest of the Star Wars canon, and I loved the character interactions.

That being said it wasn’t a perfect movie. None of them are, but we place a lot of emphasis on the end. Let’s not forget about the journey. This is not just a standalone movie, but the ending of a trilogy, and finally of an ennealogy. It’s a monumental task, especially with how controversial the last movie was, to try and wrap everything up in a neat bow, and I applaud the effort. It was a fun movie. But there was a lot that didn’t work.

My biggest issue with the plot was how convenient everything was. There were a lot of problems that were solved too quickly or coincidentally. Here are just a few examples:

  • ‘Earning’ the lightsaber – In one scene, Rey hands Leia the lightsaber, and explains that she hasn’t earned it yet – setting up for a potentially interesting plotline. Unfortunately, it’s literally the next scene where Leia gives it back. What was the point? If Leia was trying to reassure her, they should have had it happen all in the same scene.
  • Chewbacca’s ‘death’ – I don’t know how many people actually believed he was dead, but I definitely thought it was going to weigh more heavily on Rey and the group, only for the big reveal that he survived towards the end and potentially stop Rey from going full dark side. But on the next planet, she senses him and they have to go on a rescue mission. Which succeeds, by the way, while the group are on a very tight time limit.
  • The Second Sith Wayfinder – It’s weird that Luke and Lando were on the hunt for one of these, tracking someone to Pasaana only for Luke to somehow acquire one before his exile and hide it in his X-wing.
  • The Force Connection – I really liked that they included this plot point from The Last Jedi, and more than that it was used as a means of revealing information to the other, but it also felt too convenient. It happened so often, it was being abused to move the story forward in a way that felt very artificial. Every time they landed on a new planet, the connection would kick in and lead to some confrontation between Rey and Kylo Ren where information would be conveniently leaked. Though the scene on Kijimi where they’re circling each other and fighting through the connection was pretty sweet.

There was so much potential, which I think is the most frustrating part of it all. We had a lot of interesting threads introduced, and the gang visited lots of cool planets but they didn’t really serve any purpose. Anywhere they went would be interrupted by Kylo Ren and the First Order. We hear about the First Order intending to capture children to train and bolster their ranks right as we land on a planet full of cute, giggly children. Rey is introduced to one such child who gives her a necklace and you’re immediately fearful that she might be captured and turned into a Stormtrooper. Or at least I was. Instead, it’s the necklace that’s important, as it leads the First Order to them. And the children are never on screen again.

While trying to flee the First Order, they fall into some weird sand trap. Finn thinks they’re going to die and worries that he’ll leave something unsaid between him and Rey. But they survive! When Rey asks him what he wanted to tell her, he avoids it. And despite being brought up several times after the fact, we never actually have that conversation. It didn’t add much to the plot and was left frustratingly unresolved.

We follow the gang to Kijimi where the group learns about Poe’s unsavoury past. It’s hilariously glossed over because they’re a weird ensemble cast anyway (which I totally enjoyed), and we meet some of his old co-workers. Despite being a bunch of untrustworthy criminals and smugglers, they immediately decide to help the resistance, and when Zorii Bliss reveals that her survival is dependent on a First Order Captain’s badge that she somehow acquired, at the first sign of said group, she immediately decides to sacrifice herself, and seemingly perishes when the Final Order makes an example of Kijimi. Except she’s not dead, and she joins them at the end of the movie.

We learn that Hux is the spy alluded to in one of the opening scenes of the movie, only for him to die in the next.

See what I mean?

A lot of it didn’t feel earned. It felt convenient or was quickly resolved to the point where it was barely a problem in the first place. I loved seeing cool aliens and checking out new planets, but the movie would have had a lot more impact if we had more powerful plot points and character moments to coincide with them. Otherwise, it’s just set dressing. There is no substance.

That being said, there were a few things I really enjoyed. For one, the redemption of Kylo Ren was really, really well handled. I was worried that such a complex and controversial character would be left with a really unsatisfying character arc, but thankfully that was not the case. We knew from The Last Jedi that we were dealing with a different Kylo, and the change in him after the death of his mother, Leia – how he replays his final moments with his father, and the tragic event that has haunted him throughout the trilogy – was incredibly moving and beautifully done. You really felt the conflict in the character. The mirroring of the scene with Han from The Force Awakens made it that much more impactful.

The bit with Rey’s parentage felt a bit forced, but I concede that it was a grey area that could have been mined for motivation, something Rey was lacking in these movies more so than the rest of the cast. She ambled forward first because of her connection to BB-8 and then because of her new force powers, but she just didn’t feel as personally invested as the rest of the cast. I did really enjoy her ‘toying’ with the dark side, and I thought it was a really unique twist. Where Anakin and Ben were angry and driven by rage and hatred, Rey was desperate to protect herself and her new family. A desperation that pushes her closer and closer to the dark side and almost into Palpatine’s grasp.

I’m left wondering if the trilogy had more structure and a rough outline of a story if it would have been more enjoyable. Important information could have been seeded in earlier. Instead, it felt like the movie was trying to repair all the controversial changes in The Last Jedi. And while the Emperor being alive was a fun idea, and I can see where the story supports it, a bit more foreshadowing would have helped alleviate the burden on this movie. It tried to do too much, and so it didn’t do anything particularly well.

Even with all the weird turns of the plot, I had fun. The first two-thirds of the movie were a fun romp through space to find a Sith temple. Did I love the ending? No, not really. I think it lacked some impact, and much like the finale of Game of Thrones we got earlier this year, it felt rushed and unearned. But like GoT, it’s not just about the end. I had fun rewatching the movies and reading the books. I had fun coming up with theories and checking out theory videos on Youtube. I’ve enjoyed being a part of the fandom and I enjoyed the movie, the good and the bad. I’ve enjoyed the journey.

I’m still parsing my thoughts on the movie, and I’ll have to see it a few more times before I can fully process my feelings. It wasn’t a narrative masterpiece, but then it’s a family-friendly Disney movie, full of weird aliens, cool ships and space wizards. You’re not going to see the movie for the intricate plot or character development, though they would be welcome additions. You want to see cool lightsaber fights and epic battles in space. And that’s what you get. It’s a fun movie, with lots of easter eggs from the previous movies and beyond. It’s an homage to the legacy that is Star Wars and a message about friendship and sticking together. It kept me on the edge of my seat, had me laughing, and even tearing up.

I enjoyed it, and at the end of the day, isn’t that what matters?

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